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Niger Delta community ready to sue Agip Oil Company

The people of Etiema are ready to take a court action against Agip, a major oil company operating in the oil-rich Niger Delta for what they describe as an unfair treatment. The people bemoaned since oil production started in 1971, there have been no significant improvement in their livelihoods.

In an interview with the Chief of Etiema, Howels Idibo Ebifate, he said “we are dying, the oil companies left us like that”. “Many of our children died as a result of negative oil operations”, the chief and community leaders said. The leaders of the community insisted the oil companies give promises that are not fulfilled. “They use their mouth to make us happy”, decried the Chief Idibo Ebifate. To appease the community of the deaths of the youth, Agip Oil Company, a major oil company operating in the Niger Delta, promised to give the people of Etieama an amount of 5 million naira. The chief stated categorically that for the past 10 years they have not been given the money. The oil company said the Bank where the money was deposited was on strike. “For over 10 years, the bank is still on strike” the chief retorted disappointingly. 

A group of Ghanaian journalists and civil society groups in Nigeria visited the community as part of the training of journalists in Ghana and Uganda by Revenue Watch Institute, Thomson Reuters Foundation and Penplusbytes on oil reporting.

The chief complained the many years of neglect of the welfare of the people by these oil companies. “They did not help us at all” said Chief Idibo Ebifate. Since 2007, there has not been any viable corporate social responsibility from these companies. The oil companies built solar-powered street lights that functioned for less than 2 years. The oil companies again built an uncompleted primary and it took the local community to complete the structure for themselves. “The oil companies have not set foot at the community since 1971”, cried the chief of Etiema.

Etiema is therefore ready to battle Agip in court over what they claim is completely an unfair dealing. “We are not financially strong enough to fight the oil companies in court”, the chief said and insisted they will pursue the action if they receive support from international non-governmental organizations and agencies. The court action will be in pursuance of the deaths of about 20 youth as a result of oil company operations and the broken promise of 5 million naira.

It can be recalled that Oruma is the first community in the Niger Delta that has taken Shell to international court in the Netherlands to seek for redress. Agricultural lands near Oruma were devastated and drinking water was polluted as the result of leakage from a Shell Nigeria oil pipeline.

The Oruma case is the first of three civil suits to be brought before the court in The Hague. On 6 May 2009, the other two cases were introduced by Mr Barizaa M.T. Dooh from the village of Goi in Ogoniland and Mr Friday A. Akpan from the village of Ikot Ada Udo.

Etiema will be the second major community to follow other civil suits seeking for justice in court over the activities of oil companies in the Niger Delta. Oil operations have had negative impacts on the livelihood of the people in Etieama. “Let out oil be in the ground”, Chief Idibo Ebifate said in his concluding statement adding that “because of the oil, our food is not growing”.

 

By: Stephen Yeboah, a freelance journalist and development practitioner. Email: stephenyeboah110@yahoo.com

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Comment by Christiane Badgley on June 2, 2011 at 18:45
Interesting article and comment. I would add one thing regarding the Western Region: the region's infrastructure is already strained. If the oil industry and in particular the downstream sector continue to develop without concurrent infrastructure development, local residents could be effectively worse off because of oil (even if not directly impacted by it). Interviewing young people in the region, I'm finding that many are already adjusting their expectations. However, the rising rents, increased traffic, problems with electricity, lack of sewage treatment system (in Sekondi-Takoradi), etc. make people question the "benefits" of oil...The government has decided against allocating a percentage of oil revenues to the Western Region (and there are valid reasons for this decision), but it ignores the infrastructure needs of the area at a great risk. On a recent visit to Sekondi, Mills stated that the region needed massive infrastructure improvement...now we'll have to see if those words translate into action.
Comment by Stephen Yeboah on June 1, 2011 at 18:34

Kobina: It is true that the Ghana Petroleum Management Law prohibits the special transfer of funds to specific regions as it is the case in the mining sector. 

 

This provision has actually been the cause of increased agitations of chiefs in the Western Region. What remains important for now is to increase education on this provision to nip any unfavourable in the bud. This is why we are calling for increased education to clamp down on wild expectations. The government should also increase development interventions in the region.

 

Kobina, this issue still remains delicate. The chiefs claim during electioneering campaign, the ruling government promised to give 10% hence their demand. The govt has changed its course and it is now contentious.

 

The question to pose is that does offshore oil production favour certain regions especially when impacts are not direct as is the case of onshore production.

Comment by Kobina Aidoo on June 1, 2011 at 4:12
Stephen: I was in Ghana's Western Region a couple of weeks ago, and the chiefs and people still sound bitter that the Petroleum Bill did not have a provision for special transfers to the oil-producing region. Given what you learned in Nigeria, I'm curious to hear your view on that matter in Ghana.

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